New Gardens Or Old Gardens?

Ilona Erwin

People who begin a brand new garden either in their yard or on a new property have an easier time designing , maintaining, making their garden look good. I think that is why a landscaping re-do often entails tearing out everything and starting from a new slate.

Sure, there is bare ground for awhile, and often the plants are smaller more spaced than we like, but that changes quickly if planting many of the most popular plants (and there is no question that “fast growers” are at the top of the list for lots of landscapers and homeowners). But it all looks so nice, tidy, and promising- before any problems hit. Things like insects, growing on poor ground, or ground that becomes neglected, or getting some cold climate whammy (Lowest temperatures in ten years? Say goodbye to many borderline hardy plantings).

Besides, when digging up a new plot of ground for a landscape planting or a new flower bed, the weeds are all (temporarily) done away with, and nursery grown plantings or scatterings of seed that always do best in open places create a very lush look. It is only later that the gardener is forced to pay attention to dividing, manuring the ground, pruning, or some other labor and knowledge intensive activity.

Is there anything to say in the defense of old gardens? Should we all just clear the overgrown weed patch away and start over…preferably in a new spot?

It all depends on the character of the old garden. There are some plantings that take a long time to grow to a mature size. Some planting choices, no matter what their longevity are choice plants, some even rare. An old garden makes no bones about which plants do well, and which languish (and has bones, so to speak, as well). So, yes, there are times an old garden is well worth saving and renovating. This is before the landscape plan and its particular genius is evaluated.

I love old everything, and that includes gardens. so my bias is always going to be with waiting to see if a garden has something valuable to offer in plants or design before clearing it away. This is something that requires a little patience, a smidgen of hope, and a wheel barrow load of work. It is work of renovating an old garden that people don’t desire.

I have both worked at restoring some of my gardens and abandoned some to the mower.

I also used an old neglected garden as the beginning of my own at the city house I once lived in. And there is something of character and history in older gardens, which cannot be easily obtained in new plantings.

My plea would be for a homeowner to consider the assets of an older garden, if they are debating whether to bulldoze it (figuratively), or cut down venerable trees and shrubs. Many times there are practices that will restore health, shape, and vigor to older plantings and designs.

In any case, happy gardening whether you start with a landscape that was handed to you, or one that is a new slate.

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.